After the government petitioned the National Media Commission (NMC) over Joy News' " Militia documentary" asking for an apology, the Multimedia Group Limited has taken steps to respond in a long piece.
The documentary which is an undercover work by Manasseh Azure Awuni titled, ‘Militia in the Heart of the City’ captures a group of young men and women said to be members of a private security firm or militia group known as De-Eye Group during a meeting at the Christiansburg Castle at Osu, the former seat of government.
The government through the Information Ministry denied the perception the documentary portrayed and asked the Multimedia Group to apologise and clear the air.
Below is Multimedia's full response
IN THE SETTLEMENT COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL MEDIA COMMISSION – NMC
ACCRA – A.D. 2019
IN THE MATTER OF PART III OF THE NATIONAL MEDIA COMMISSION ACT, 1993 (ACT 449) AND THE NATIONAL MEDIA COMMISSION (COMPLAINTS SETTLEMENT PROCEDURE) REGULATIONS, 1994 (LI 1587)
IN THE MATTER OF A COMPLAINT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF GHANA AGAINST MULTIMEDIA GROUP LIMITED
GOVERNMENT OF GHANA – COMPLAINANT
MULTIMEDIA GROUP LIMITED – RESPONDENT
RESPONDENT’S RESPONSE TO complaint
PURSUANT TO R4 (2) OF NMC LI 1587, 1994
Unless hereinafter expressly admitted, Respondent, of 355 Faanofa Street, Kokomlemle, Accra, denies each and every allegation contained in the Complaint dated the 13th day of March 2019 as if same were set out in extenso and traversed seriatim, and as follows:
Respondent serves notice that at the hearing of this Complaint, Respondent shall raise preliminary legal objection to Complainant’s capacity and/or ability, in law, to bring the Complaint and seek the reliefs therein, and other than a probable right in article 162(6) of the Constitution 1992.
That clarification as to the capacity or specific Complainant may be required, Respondent’s reading of even the first paragraph/relief (ii) of the Complaint seems to throw up a potential confusion in that respect, and when to read against your cover letter. Be that as it may, Respondent shall defer to the purported capacity in said first paragraph/relief (ii) to be the Government of the Republic of Ghana.
That again, the specific party(ies) against whom the Complaint is made, is not exactly apparent as ought to be from the face of the Complaint – is it against a specific unit of or the Multimedia Group Limited. Here also, Respondent shall rely on Complainant’s reference to “JOY NEWS” (on the face/contents of the Complaint and the Commission’s cover letter as well as other references to units and “various affiliates”) and prefer to treat same under the umbrella Multimedia Group Limited in the spirit assisting the Commission fully.
That despite paragraphs (2) and (3) above in reference to the lack of proper unambiguous identification of the parties or capacity of Complainant, which is critical to satisfy, inter alia, fundamental legal requirements including to properly found the Complaint, please be assured, as always, of Respondent’s commitment to assist the Commission in the present matter to achieve the ends of procedural and substantive justice in full compliance with law and the Constitution.
That, alternatively, Respondent shall commence its Response by the following observable by judicial notice:
That Respondent is incorporated under the laws of Ghana with the following business units – Joy FM, Adom FM, Asempa FM, Nhyira FM, Luv FM, Hitz FM, MultiTv (with channels including JoyNews), Myjoyonline.com and Adomonline.com churning out arguably the largest number of stories by any media house in Ghana.
That Respondent is Ghana’s foremost private commercial establishment in the Mass Media operating said the chain of media outlets in service of the citizens of Ghana for the effective exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to free speech and expression which includes freedom of the press and other media in compliance with law and journalism ethics.
That is the exercise of their jobs and profession in the normal course, staff attend to the invitation of State and non-state agencies and actors to provide radio, television and online coverage of critical news events for onward broadcast/dissemination to Ghanaians in their homes, offices, etc in their various cities, towns, and hamlets, and the world at large.
That further to the preceding sub-paragraph, Respondent receives distress calls and draws the attention of relevant agencies including the police and fire services to acts that threaten the peace of a community or the country for prompt action to avert harm to life and limb, destruction of property among others.
Respondent, further to the preceding sub-paragraphs, conduct research and investigations into various issues of community and national interest including the pendency or outbreak of disease, help to create public awareness and educate people to avoid contracting diseases, etc.
Respondent, further to the preceding sub-paragraphs, duly empowered including as in chapters 5, 6 and 12 of the Constitution, exercises constitutional duties including article 41(f) to expose and combat corruption in furtherance of the ideals including as mandated in chapter 6 of the Constitution.
In fact, presently airing on Respondent’s network is one such critical documentary of huge national importance going to the very core of citizenship. It is dubbed “Paper Citizens” is set to get Parliament act even as relevant authorities move in the arrest and prosecute officers and fraudsters at the Births and Deaths Registry.
Respondent has produced uncountable documentaries that have gotten the State into action including recent ones leading to efforts to improve prison conditions under the leadership of Chief Justice Georgina Wood, fight the menace of land guards and galamsey, and with public support and under the sterling leadership of the First Lady Rebecca Akufo Addo provide life-saving healthcare facilities building one from the scratch now being used by mothers and babies.
That Respondent, in the normal course, also works to expose human rights abuses, bad conditions of health, poor education, poor shelter among others in especially deprived communities and of less privileged individuals, to seek support/redress from both public and private agencies including from philanthropists, all of which help in no small measure to improve the general well-being of society.
Respondent through its various outlets project and celebrate the country, or institutions and individuals doing patriotic and other good and inspiring acts, and raise funds to support brilliant but needy students, build schools, provide furniture, libraries, drill boreholes and other essential needs where such are lacking.
That Respondent pursues professionally ethical broadcasting and strives at all times to be the leading light in such pursuit in its various forms of media operations.
That Respondent has neither the motivation nor the desire to act or promote content that is “…offensive, utterly false, a product of gross misrepresentation of facts and wild speculation…” as Complainant alleges.
That a civil suit number GJ936/19 over the same subject before the NMC is pending before the High Court, General Jurisdiction Division, Accra, albeit styled in the tort of defamation of the De-Eye Group Limited, the subject of the documentary in question.
That further to paragraph (1) above and pursuant to said constitutional dictate, Respondent duly performed the constitutional obligation in publishing Complainant’s rejoinder and giving it deserving prominence and referring profusely to same anytime it dealt with the subject matter herein on any of its platforms including its flagship programs. Attached hereto is said rejoinder cast in the mold of the Complaint herein in a material respect and marked Exhibit “1” and evidence of publication by Respondent marked Exhibit “1A”.
Respondent contends, from the onset, that the reference and resort to the words “militia” and “security zone” which rile Complainant and constitute the gravamen of its plaint or charge, are Respondent’s opinion and fair comment in fact and in law on the subject of its investigations and not subject to the Complainant’s (or the Commission’s) contrary view as such will be contrary to standard professional conduct in journalism, the GJA Code of Ethics, purport to vary the law on the defences of justification/opinion/comment, and even more dangerously purport to fetter individual/media constitutional and fundamental human right to free expression in article 21 of the Constitution.
That further to paragraph (7) above, Respondent dwelt on facts including formal official popularization of the word “militia” by a constitutional commission set up by the H.E the President of the Republic of Ghana to investigate matters concerning electoral violence said to have arisen partly from what was hitherto widely referred to by a section of the public as “political party vigilante”.
That in fact, in said documentary the group in question is interchangeably referred to as “vigilante” and “militia” and that said second usage arose because while the production of the documentary was ongoing, a member of the Commission of Inquiry into the Ayawaso West Wuogon By Election Violence, Professor Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, observed and emphasised thus:
“We call these things political vigilantes and we don’t quite appreciate how bad. It is plain warlordism. They are militias. They are not political vigilantes. They are militias…They are private militias, subject to some people’s control. Those people are warlords.”
That said introduction (of said militia) was not only by a member of said Commission but one of Ghana’s foremost professor of criminal law with international exposure and experience in the subject having been a member of the UN Secretary-General’s 14-member High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Rule of Law in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), worked for the Organization of African Unity (OAU), African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana’s representative on the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on the Drafting of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child in 1991, and the OAU’s Committee of Experts on the Lockerbie Case, a member of the Advisory Panel of the International Bar Association for the drafting of a Code of Professional Conduct for Defence Counsel appearing before the International Criminal Court to which she was a favourite for the candidacy of judgeship.
That it came as no surprise to Respondent that there was not the slightest challenge to her usage from the Chairman of the Commission with similar repute and expertise in said matters, as well as the other member of the Commission, a former Inspector-General of the Ghana Police Service. In fact, internationally reputed security experts shared the usage leading to widespread acceptance replacing the hitherto common usage of political party vigilante.
That the word “militia” is therefore used and understood contextually not to be same as what might find as the first technical sense in a dictionary but somewhat loosely along the second non-technical sense of the definition as rendered in Wikipedia essentially to be a “fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state”.
Respondent shall rely on the defenses of justification, privilege, fair comment/opinion and public interest on the facts particularised as follows:
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